Reader success story: How this newbie booked a dream trip to Hawaii with one card bonus

Today I wanted to share a story from TPG reader Doug Sporrer, who booked a family vacation worth over $5,000 by picking up a new Marriott cobranded card.

Doug’s story shows how you don’t need to be a road warrior to be in the points game. You just need to be strategic about how you spend your money and redeem your rewards.

My family and I (wife and 2 teenagers) are finishing up 5 free nights at the Westin Hapuna Beach resort on the Kohala Coast in Hawaii. Thanks to your website I signed up for the Marriott Bonvoy card last fall that was offering 5 free night certificates and we really got lucky to find this place on the beach in Hawaii! We even have an ocean view. We are both teachers. I never really thought we could take our kids to Hawaii. But thanks to your website it has all worked out. It has been an unbelievable trip. These rooms are over $1,000 a night currently and ours was free! People don’t believe me. Ha! Thank you for the work you do. 

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As you can see, it doesn’t take much to get into the points and miles game. Regardless of what line of work you’re in, or even if you’re still in school, you can still start to collect travel rewards. What’s great about this hobby is that so much of it can be done from the comfort of your own home.

All you have to do is take advantage of some credit card sign-up bonuses and you’ll rack up a lot of points and free night awards before you know it. In Doug’s case, one card alone was enough to cover an entire vacation.

Related: TPG’s beginner’s guide to credit cards: Everything you need to know

While the sign-up bonus Doug took advantage of is no longer available, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card‘s current bonus is still pretty exciting. Right now, new cardholders get three Free Night Awards (each free night award has a redemption value of up to 50,000 bonus points) for a total value of up to 150,000 total points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Plus, you’ll earn 10 points per dollar on up to $2,500 in combined purchases at grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations within the first six months from account opening.

The 50,000-point free night awards can be used at any Category 1–6 Marriott hotel with standard award availability on standard and off-peak dates. Or, you can use them to book an off-peak date at a Category 7 property.

Doug was able to maximize his certificates by redeeming them at the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort when cash rates were high and there was standard award availability. As a Category 6 Marriott Bonvoy property, standard award nights here normally cost 50,000 points.

Related: Here are the offers on Marriott cards right now

Normally, Marriott Bonvoy offers a “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” perk that allows you to get a complimentary night when you redeem points for five consecutive nights. But unfortunately, Doug couldn’t stack that offer with his certificates because free night awards are excluded.

Still, Doug was able to get thousands of dollars in value from his sign-up bonus and you can do the same.

Related: Can I mix hotel points and free night certificates to get a fourth or fifth night free?

Aside from a generous sign-up bonus, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card comes with some valuable perks. For instance, it provides automatic Bonvoy Silver status and a pathway to upgrade to Gold Elite status by spending $35,000 on the card each year. Silver status is typically earned after 10 nights, while Gold requires 25 nights.

But as you can see, you don’t need to be a frequent traveler to fast-track them. Other perks of the card include an annual free night award (worth up to 35,000 points) at each account anniversary, 15 elite qualifying night credits per year and more.

Doug was able to get great value at the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, but if you need some more inspiration on where to redeem your 50k certificates, check out the on-Disney-property Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, the new JW Marriott Bonnet Creek, the perfectly located Springhill Suites Zion National Park, Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino or the just-opened AC Hotel Maui Wailea. For more ideas, see this guide.

Related: TPG readers’ best Marriott Bonvoy redemptions

I love this story and we want to hear more like it. Please email your own award travel success stories to [email protected]; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. You can also feel free to submit your worst travel mistakes. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Featured photo courtesy of The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort.

SPONSORED: With states reopening, enjoying a meal from a restaurant no longer just means curbside pickup.

And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free. 

These are the best credit cards for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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